John and Bethany Arndt

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about

John was born in the sleepy Mid-Western town of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The sharp range of its weather, from the suffering heat in the summer to the frozen crunch of winter’s blanket, steadily drove outward the boundaries of his imagination. Both a twin and the middle of 5 laughing children, John was aware of the ache in himself for a greater destiny at a very young age. He fueled his wanderlust with stories both modern and fantastical, devouring books at a tremendous rate. John would have remained content to passively observe others’ journeys through text if not for his adventurous twin sister’s ability to draw him to actively interact with the world (in games and relationships). Ruined for the quiet life, John’s first foreshadowing of his adult pursuits came when he stumbled upon autobiographical story of Bruce Olson, a young missionary who left his comfort zone to live incarnationally amongst a tribe in the Amazon.

John dove headfirst into story-telling himself in high school, wanting to further his communication skills in expressing the beauty of all he saw around him. Part of that expression birthed a completely different art form- percussion. In an attempt to communicate what he felt about the Lord, he found himself drumming on tables and chairs, his lap and his friends’ arms, until he finally got his hands on hand drums. Being quite ungainly and rhythm-less, it took several years of beating out what he was feeling to begin to marshal itself into cohesive cadences; by then John began leading out in worship with an almost primal call to the Lord.

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Through these years of musical expansion and story-telling, John’s heart for sharing the truth and love of Jesus in other cultures fed on his twin sister’s adventuresome influence. He first visited Mexico, and then as soon as high school ended he made his way to India and Nepal. Joining YWAM for 2 year-long seasons, he took his djembe drum and his stories to Madagascar, Rwanda, Kenya and 30 different States. He attended university in an attempt to learn more of communicating through literature and film studies, and then joined 24/7 prayer for a discipleship school in Kansas City’s infamous Boiler Room.

In these years of mission and worship, John saw in himself the deep desire for community. Having spent most of his childhood immersed in books, he felt the need for solid communication with others as a way of involving them in his story with the Lord. He was restless in social settings where there was no opportunity for honest and loving intimacy. He saw how broken and hurting people drew together to share their lives with each other increasingly outside of the church. Spending a season in a close-knit community in Kansas City, John began to develop the value of small groups sharing life together as a means of support and worship.

His journey finally led him back to quiet Tulsa, to meet Bethany O’Connor, a passionate social worker living in South Africa, who stole his heart within 72 hours of meeting. After 2 suffering years of on-and-off communication, the divide between her residence in Africa and his in America revealed itself to be planned by a God who creates love stories. Late in the year 2010, John heard from the Lord that the next chapter of his life would culminate in South Africa, where he would further develop his love for close-knit community in the new endeavors of church-planting by means of small groups, as well as coaching others into recognizing and growing in their God given strengths. Staring in 2014, John began leading an initiative within All Nations, called Serve Syria. It is Serve Syria’s aim to mobilize South Africans and the Western church to respond to the current crisis in the middle east, involving millions of displaced Syrian refugees. To learn how you can get involved email servesyria@gmail.com.

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After growing up in a remarkable family in Oregon, getting a bachelors and masters in social work in Oklahoma, and working in child welfare and international adoptions, Bethany moved to South Africa in January 2008.  As a missionary/social worker in a township called Masiphumelele (Masi), Bethany started a baby rescue operation, called Baby Safe, for Masi and other surrounding  impoverished communities. Baby Safe focuses on desperate new mothers, providing an alternative to throwing their babies away (a common problem here). Baby Safe has evolved from a powerhouse team of full time volunteers pursuing moms in crisis and intervening with abandoned babies to now focusing on being source of multiplication to help other willing groups in South Africa establish a similar outreach, seeking to end baby dumping and share the hope of Jesus to women in need.

But it’s more than life-changing social work for Bethany. She regularly seeks out (and meets with) those that Jesus is calling out to follow Him. Bethany’s  passion to see Him receive affection from the hearts of the people that He came for,  extends beyond social justice. Her heart loves the poor.  She loves when the poor recognize His love, and when His love and power transform living conditions, income opportunities, addictions, relationships, habits, hearts and minds. He is doing this in here in South Africa!

Both John and Bethany are members of the All Nations family here, a missions organization focused on simple church planting (small home based communities of faith); a beautiful means of creating followers of Jesus. All Nations has a vision to raise up African leaders who change the tide of this continent; they are a community of believers that prioritize love and are fiercely intentional about teaching others to follow Jesus, by forming self sustainable home churches among the unreached and neglected people groups of the earth.